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#1 RobertK

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:24 AM

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Sarah Abbott writes:

“The Pali word for Bardo is 'antaraabhava' or the intermediate state of existence and there are many references to this term in the commentaries and seems to occur only in the Kathaavatthu text of the Tipitaka. There is an informative debate on this issue in Vagga VIII.2 where the Pubbaseliyas and the Sammitiyas maintain that there is an intermediate state of existence. The Theravadins refute this. You can read it in Points of Controversy, 212ff. which is a PTS translation of Kv. “

As the summary from the commentary reads “Some..., by a careless acceptation of the Sutta-phrase - ‘completed existence within the interval’ - held that there is an interim stage where a being awaits reconception for a week or longer. The counter-argument is based on the Exalted One’s dictum that there are three states of becoming only - the Kaama-, the Ruupa-, and the Aruupa worlds. (SN, 11, 3 etc).”

I tend to think the question of anatta is of relevance. Isn’t it only when there is an idea of ‘beings’ rather than a continuous succession of cittas, that these questions arise? Even in a dream-like or coma-like state, there is a succession of cittas and conditioned and conditioning rupas.

#2 RobertK

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:25 AM

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Sarah Abbott writes:

Kathavatthu (Points of Controversy), Bk V111,2,”Of an Intermediate State’, discusses in detail why the proposition “that there is an intermdiate state of existence” is not valid.

In summary from the commentary:

QUOTE
“Some (as, for instance, the Pubbaseliyas and Sammitiyas), by a careless acceptation of the Sutta-phrase - ‘completed existence within the interval’ - held that there is an interm stage where a being awaits reconception for a week or longer. The counter-argument is based on the Exalted One’s dictum that there are three states of becoming only - the Kama-, the Rupa-, and the Arupa-worlds <SN ii,3 etc>. And it is because of that dictum that the opponent (in so far as he is orthodox) has to deny so many of the questions.”


Also from the commentary:

QUOTE
“.........Here the sense is this: If there be such a state as an intermediate state of becoming, then it must be a ‘five-mode becoming’ etc., such as Kama-life, and so forth. Let us then ask you: “Do you identify the intermediate state with either the Kama-life, or Rupa-life, or Arupa-life?” All these the opponent denies, because he would not admit such things.

“The expressions “either of the Kama-life” and so forth have been brought forth in order that, if there be an intermediate state, it must be between these states of becoming, like an interval between two boundaries. The opponent who would not admit such things, denies all these questions. Thus he refuses the Sakavadin’s “indeed” simply for his view, but not in accordance with the doctrine.”


#3 RobertK

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:26 AM

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Sarah Abbott writes:

I’m using Peter Masefield’s translation of the Udana (Ud) and Udana commentary (Ud-a), both published by the PTS for these quotes. The on-line sutta can be found at:

http://www.accesstoi...ana/ud1-10.html

As you reminded me, before we discussed a little about intermediate states (antaraabhava) which are often referred to in other Buddhist traditions as ‘bardo’. I quoted from the Abhidhamma text, the Kathavatthu (Points of Controversy) in this post:

http://www.escribe.c...oup/m18195.html

In Bk V111,2,”Of an Intermediate State’, the Kathavatthu discusses in detail why the proposition “that there is an intermdiate state of existence” is not valid. I don’t think there is any difference of understanding between us here or elsewhere, Connie, but as it is a common misperception about the Buddha’s teaching, I’m using your comment as an excuse add more detail from the Ud and Ud-a.

*****

The Buddha encourages Bahiya to understand the objects experienced through the sense doors and the six classes of consciousness.

QUOTE
“ ‘With respect to the seen...merely the seen (di.t.the di.t.thamatta.m)’: with respect to a sight-base (ruupaayatane) (there will be) merely that seen by means of eye-consciousness.”


The Buddha is stressing that mere dhammas exist. A little later in the Ud-a we read:

QUOTE
“For, in this connection, the sight-base is called ‘the seen’ (di.t.tha.m)in the sense that it is something that is to be beheld, (as is) eye-consciousness, together with the consciousness associated with the doors therefore, in the sense of seeing, both of these, occurring (as they do) in accordance with conditions, being solely and merely dhammas; there is, in this connection, neither a doer nor one who causes things to be done, as a result of which, since (the seen) is impermanent in the sense of being non-existent after having been, dukkha in the sense of being oppressed by way of rise and fall, not-self in the sense of proceeding uncontrolled, whence the opportunity for excitement and so on with respect thereto on the part of one who is wise?...”


This is important, because, ideas of intermediate states are often wrapped up in an idea of self or control. The Buddha says a little later in the sutta:

QUOTE
“When you, Bahiya, are not therein (tato tva.m Baahiya na tattha), then you, Bahiya, will be neither here nor there nor, additionally, in both (tato tva.m Baahiya nev’idha na hura.m na ubhayamantarena)- this alone is the end of dukkha.”


Ud-a makes it clear that the first few words refer to how having fully understood the deep meaning of the previous words, along with path-fruition, Bahiya ‘will be neither excited with that lust, blemished with that anger, nor deluded with that delusion, then, or alternatively therefore, you [Bahiya] will not be therein, in that seen and so on, you will not be attached, established, either in that seen or in that heard, sensed and cognised, by way of craving, conceit and (wrong) view thinking ‘This is mine, this I am, this is for me the self’.”

In otherwords, arahantship and parinibbana at the end of his life, the end of all dukkha.

Ud-a continues:

QUOTE
“It is, moreover, wrong on the part of those who seek reference to an intermediate becoming (antaraabhava.m) by seizing upon the phrase ubhayamantarena [in both]. For the existence of an intermediate becoming is altogether rejected in the Abhidhamma. ....Furthermore, those who still say that there is an intermediate becoming by seizing unmethodically upon the meaning of such sutta-passages as ‘An antaraaparinibbaayin’ (eg Aiv70ff) and ‘Those who are become or those seeking becoming’(Khp8) are to be rebuffed with ‘there is no (such thing)’, since the meaning of the former sutta passage is that he is an antaraaparinibbaayin since he attains parinibbaana (parinibbaayati) by way of remainderles defilement-parinibbana through attaining the topmost path midway (antaraa)[in lifespan]...., whilst the meaning of the latter (sutta-passage) is that those who, in the former word, are spoken of as ‘those who are become’ (bhuutaa), are those in whom the asavas have been destroyed, being those who are merely become, (but) who will not become (again, (whereas the latter,) being the antithesis thereof, (and spoken of as) ‘those seeking becoming’ (sambhavesino) since it is becoming (sambhava.m) that they seek (esenti), are sekhas and puthujjanas on account of the fetters giving rise to becoming not having been abandoned....”


There is a lot more detail, but I’ll leave it here with this last quote given in Ud-a on the same subject:

QUOTE
“For when there is a straightforward meaning that follows the (canonical) Pali, what business is there in postulating an intermediate becoming of unspecified capacity?”


Any comments welcome.

With metta,

Sarah
======

#4 RobertK

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:30 AM

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Sarah Abbott (S) writes to C:

S: ....or ‘intermediate becoming’(antaraabhava.m), an idea of a pending state between death and birth, NOT to be found in the Theravada Pali Canon, but widely believed elsewhere.

....

C: There are these four nutriments for the establishing of beings who have taken birth or for the support of *those in search of a place to be born*. Which four? Physical food, gross or refined; contact as the second, consciousness the third, and intellectual intention the fourth. These are the four nutriments for the establishing of beings or for the support of those in search of a place to be born. [SN XII.64]

Thanissaro Bhikkhu mentions "sambhavesin" and calls it/them(?) 'the momentary state of being b/n death and rebirth', acknowledging that there is no such thing in a strict Thera position, but that anecdotal material from around the world seems to support such a thing.

....

S: He is correct that there ‘is no such thing in a strict Thera position’ anyway;-). B.Bodhi gives the title to the sutta of ‘If there is Lust’. If there is lust for maintenance and becoming, samsara continues supported by the 4 nutriments. B. Bodhi translates the phrase ‘sambhavesin’ as ‘those seeking a new existence’. Buddhadatta gives ‘sambhavana’ = coming into existence and ‘sambhavesii’ = one who is seeking birth.

Jim gave the following commentary detail before: "OF THOSE SEEKING A NEW EXISTENCE" (Pali: sambhavesino pl.).

The commentary (Ps i 207) gives a detailed explanation. In the case of the egg-born and the womb-born they refer to beings still inside the egg or the womb before hatching out or parturition. An explanation is also given for the moisture-born and the spontaneously-arisen (with the first citta of the new existence but not so with the next citta and afterwards).

*****

C: [How long can it take for the bird's shadow to land?]

....

S: Exactly! For others, See K.Milinda, The Cutting off of Perplexity, 7th Division:

QUOTE
“II.7.5: Simultaneous Arising in Different Places {Miln. 82-3}

The king asked: "Venerable Nagasena, if someone passes away and is reborn in the Brahma world, and if another passes away and is reborn in Kashmir, which one takes the longer time, and which the shorter?"

"They are the same, your majesty."

"Give me an analogy."

"Your majesty, where is your town of birth?"

"There is a place called Kalasigama, there I was born."

"How far away, your majesty, is Kalasigama from here?"

"About 200 yojana,[1] venerable sir."

"How far away, your majesty, is Kashmir from here?"

"About 12 yojana, venerable sir."

"Go on then, your majesty, think about Kalasigama."

"I am thinking, venerable sir."

"Go on then, your majesty, think about Kashmir."

"I am thinking, venerable sir."

"Which thinking took a long time, your majesty, and which a short time?"

"They are the same, venerable sir."

"Just so, your majesty, if someone passes away and is reborn in the Brahma world, and if another passes away and is reborn in Kashmir, they happen in the same time."

"Give me another analogy."

"What do you think, your majesty, if two birds fly in the sky and one sits in a high tree, and the other in a low tree; if these happen at the same time, the shadow of which one would appear on the ground first, and which one later?"

"They are the same, venerable sir."

"Just so, your majesty, if someone passes away and is reborn in the Brahma world, and if another passes away and is reborn in Kashmir, they happen in the same time."

"You are clever, venerable Nagasena."


Note:
1. One yojana is approximately 6 miles.” Transl by John Kelly

http://www.accesstoi...miln/index.html

*****

C: He goes on to mention the Commentaries discussing images of past kamma and where you might go and says something to the effect that part of what meditation is for is to be able to have a certain amount of control over that process (if you keep your wits about you)... that you can say about particular images, "I don't want to go there".

....

S: The more understanding there is of conditions and anatta, the more understanding there is that cittas just follow cittas according to conditions, just like now. The commentaries make it very clear that the image of past kamma or whatever object is experienced by the last javana cittas is by complex conditions (which only a Buddha could fully know), not by self or control. (I can add more if anyone likes).

#5 RobertK

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:33 AM

Rebirth in Theravda is a teaching of becoming. A stream of consciousness (vinnanasota), a stream of becoming (bhavangasota). There is in the ultmate sense no being anywhere. Nor in rebirth does consciousness travel into a new body. It is the radical insight into reality gained by the Buddha that shows that what we have taken to be the same consciousness can't last for the briefest moment- it certainly can't go somewhere or pass from life to life. There are several pages about this including especially Visuddhimagga xvii 133-175.

It is complex. I will try to put it as simply as possible. There is a lengthy explanation of how at the actual moment of death, due to several conditions, an object is taken by that consciousness (called cuti-citta) death-consciousness. This consciousness is not different from other types of consciousness that arise and pass away all day long - but it is given this name to identify it(of course each moment is not exactly the same as any other and seeing consciousness is different from hearing consciousness etc; but all have the general characteristic of experiencing an arammana). The next consciousness that arises is called patisandhara (rebirth) and again this is no different from other types of consciousness Although we call it conventionaly a 'new life' it is, just like now, simply a stream of arising and passing consciousnesses carrying on. At this moment this process of arising and passing, birth and death, (khanika marana) occurs but because of ignorance we don't perceive it. But truly we are utterly different from what we were a second ago - the reason we look and feel approximately the same is because similar conditions arise to replace the mentality and materiality that fell away. At conventional death and new birth the changes are more obvious because different kamma will produce results. Here are some pertinent quotes:

QUOTE
XVII 164 "The former of these two states of consciousness is called death (cuti) because of falling and the later is called rebirth because of linking (patisandhara) across the gap separating the beginning of the next becoming".


Note that there is no suggestion of the consciousness from the previous life going to the present life. The whole point is to make it clear that that is exactly NOT what happens.

Nowhere is needed an 'intermediate being' (antarabhava) , why would anyone posit it, it doesn't make sense if we accept the explanation of rebirth above.

Robertk

#6 RobertK

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:35 AM

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Alan McClure <alanmcclure3@ wrote:

QUOTE
After sending off a few messages, I managed to procure a list of suttas that a certain person in the Pali group believed to speak of an "antaraabhava." We have already seen the last one on the list, the "Kutuhalasala Sutta" and have seen Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's rebuttal of the idea of the antaraabhava in this sutta.


Sarah (S) replies:

S: Thank you for the suttas you gave references for. I just looked at a couple more including this one you and others were discussing.
To be clear, I understand it is the commentary's clarification which B.Bodhi refers to on this:
QUOTE
S 44:9 "When, Vaccha, a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, I declare that it is fuelled by craving. For on that occasion craving is its fuel."


B.Bodhi's note says
QUOTE
"Spk [S: commentary to SN] contends that at the death moment itself the being is said to be 'not yet reborn' because the rebirth-consciousness has not yet arisen."


I believe the following passage which Larry recently quoted from the Visuddhimagga, X1V, is relevant, differentiating between the conventional and ultimate descriptions of rebirth:
QUOTE
"187. Herein, (a) firstly, 'according to extent': in the case of a single becoming of one [living being], previous to rebirth-linking is 'past', subsequent to death is 'future', between these two is 'present' 71
-----------------------------
Note 71. 'Here when the time is delimited by death and rebirth-linking the term "extent" is applicable. It is made known through the Suttas in the way beginning "Was I in the past?" (M.i,18); for the past state is likewise mentioned as "extent" in the Bhaddekaratta Sutta too in the way beginning "He does not follow what is past (the past extent)" (M.iii,188). But when it is delimited in the ultimate sense as in the Addhaaniruttipatha Sutta thus, "Bhikkhus, there are three extents, the past extent, the future extent, and the present extent" (Iti.53), then it is appropriate as delimited by moment. Herein, the existingness of the present is stated thus, "Bhikkhus, of matter that is born ... manifested, it is said that 'It exists'" (S.iii,72), and pastness and futureness are respectively called before and after that' (Pm.496)."


Nina also wrote the following in her discussion of the Tiika to this passage (#49415):
QUOTE
"The Diigha Nikaaya, Sangiiti Sutta, the threes, XXIV, states: Three periods, to wit, past, future, present. The word addhaa, translated as period, is used here. The Co. to this passage explains that there is the Suttanta method and the Abhidhamma method of explanation. In the Suttanta method past, future and present periods are used in conventional sense, as lifespan. In the Abhidhamma method, addhaa is used in the sense of moment."


S: Just to pick up on a couple of your other references only:

A: * Metta Sutta (Khp 9, Sn 1:8) etc re: bhuta (those who have been born) and sambhavesi (those seeking birth). Khp 9:

http://www.accesstoi......hp-d.html#9<

S: I think we need to consider all such terms such as 'bhuta' and 'sambhavesi' very carefully in context.

From the Metta Sutta (Nanamoli transl):

QUOTE
'Whatever breathings beings there are, 'No matter................etc 'That are or that yet seek to be, 'Let every creature's heart rejoice.'

'Bhuuta vaa sambhavesii vaa (that are or that yet seek to be)

Commentary note: " 'That are (bhuutaa)': that have been born, generated; they are reckoned thus 'They are (have been), they will not be again', which is a designation for those with taints exhausted, [namely, Arahants]. 'That yet seek to be: sambhavesino = sambhavam esanti (resolution of compound); this is a designation for Initiates [S: sekha (trainers)] and ordinary men, who still seek being (sambhavam esantaanaa'm) in the future because they have not abandoned the fetter of being (existence).

"Or alternatively, in the case of womb generation (see e.g M i 73), creatures that are egg-born or uterus-born are called those 'that yet seek to be' as long as they have not broken the egg-membrane or the caul-membrane [respectively]; but when they have broken the egg-membrane or the caul-membrane and have come out, they are called those 'that are'.

"However, moisture-born creatures and those of spontaneous appearance are called those 'that yet seek to be' in the first moment of their cognizance, and they are called those 'that are' from the moment of the second cognizance; or else they are those 'that yet seek to be' as long as they do not reach any posture other than that in which they were born, while after that they are called those 'that are'."


#7 RobertK

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 08:10 AM

http://www.lioncity....mp;#entry472673

QUOTE
(Namdrol @ Aug 3 2006, 09:47 AM)
Without an antarbhava, one cannot account for the antaraaparinirvaayin type of Anaagamin.



Oh? I think I can...

Since the Puggalapaññatti says that the antarāparinibbāyī anāgāmin is of apparitional (opapātika) birth, he cannot be an antarābhava being according to the view of antarābhava that is refuted in the Kathāvatthu. Apparitionally-born beings comprise the denizens of hell, petas, asuras, devas and Brahmās. Being an Ariyan the antarāparinibbāyī cannot be reborn in the lower realms; being free of the five lower fetters he cannot be reborn as a deva in the sensual sphere; so that leaves only rebirth as a Brahmā deity. It is therefore no surprise that the Theravāda holds that the antarāparinibbāyī will be reborn as a Brahmā deity in the Pure Abodes (Suddhāvāsa) and attain final nibbāna there. As for the antarā- part of his name, this is not taken as referring to the antarābhava but to the fact that he attains final nibbāna before he has completed half his life-span in the Suddhāvāsa. Buddhaghosa:

'antarāparinibbāyī' ti yattha katthaci suddhāvāsabhave upapajjitvā āyuvemajjhaṃ appatvāva parinibbāyati

"Herein, an antarāparinibbāyī ("one who attains nibbāna early in his next existence") attains nibbāna after reappearing anywhere in a Pure Abode existence but without having reached the middle of his life-span there."

Of course you are not obliged to accept this, but you should at least acknowledge that sutta texts offer scarcely a clue as to the meaning of the five kinds of non-returner, while commentarial texts from the different Indian schools tend to just report the received opinion of the school in question but offer no grounds for why that opinion should be preferred over the others. It is therefore not accurate to say:

QUOTE
"Without an antarābhava, one cannot account for the antarāparinirvāyin type of Anāgāmin."


You would have spoken more truly (albeit tautologically) if you had said:

"Without an antarābhava, one cannot account for the antarāparinirvāyin type of Anāgāmin in a manner that will satisfy people who believe in an antarābhava."



QUOTE
But more than this-- the sutras clearly teach an antarabhava...



Reading Vasubandhu and Peter Harvey's Selfless Mind I really don't find any of the Suttas they cite to be clearly teaching antarābhava. That is to say, there are none of which this reading could be said to be natural and unambiguous to the point of being virtually inevitable.


QUOTE
...and in this regard, one who is a Sautrantika [a follower of sutra rather than an Abhidharma school] will bound to accept that it cannot be easily be explained through a convienient gloss where by "Gandharava" simply means "the dissolution of the skandhas."



True enough, but irrelevant, since Theravādins are not Sautrāntikas.

QUOTE
Further, there is a sutra called the Saptabhaavasutra which clearly identifies the antarabhava as one kind of existence. This sutra may be of contested authority, though it is not a Mahayana sutra, but here, as in other places where Vasubandhu notes that the absence of this sutra in someone's sutra pitika is not proof it is invalid since many sutras had already disappeared by Vasubandhu's time, there is no sound reason for its rejection by Theravadins. It is simply inconvienient.



If it's the only unequivocal sutra that Vasubandhu can support his view with, and if it is only present in the canon of a school that embraced antarābhava, then it is not inconvenient at all. We can shrug it off as a likely sectarian interpolation.

QUOTE
But if makes you happy to think that you will immediately be reborn on one of the three realms the very minute the aggregates break-up, it's ok with me.



I'm satisfied that instantaneous rebirth is correct, but cannot say that I'm happy that the universe is arranged thus.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

#8 RobertK

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 02:24 AM

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Dear Scott D, Sarah, Nina, Michael Kalyaano, Mike N, Robert K and all

How are you?

Scott quoted Bhikkhu Bodhi as writing:

QUOTE
"...If we understand the term antaraaparinibbaayi literally, as it seems we should, it then means one who attains Nibbaana in the interval between two lives, perhaps while existing in a subtle body in the intermediate state...Though the Theravaadin proponents argue against this interpretation of antaraaparinibbaayi...,the evidence from the suttas leans strongly in its favour..." (Note 65, Bojjha.ngasa.myutta, Sa.myutta Nikaaya, pp. 1902-1903.)"


The above statement of Bhikkhu Bodhi was unfortunately wrong because it failed to do justice to the Buddha's own definition of the term "antaraaparinibbaayi".

The Buddha uses the term "antaraaparinibbaayi" as a technical term reserved for an Anaagaamii, a Non-returner. So this term does not permit us from interpreting outside the original Theravada meaning described and defined by the Buddha in the Pali Suttam Texts.

Before I quote the Buddha's description of this technical term, I would like to make a brief comment on the Pali word "antara" whose meaning is merely 'between'. As its English equivalent can be used for any two things or two events or two qualities or two times or any two states, the word 'antara' can also be used. This means that the prefix 'antara' does not mean 'between two lives' as Bhikkhu Bodhi claimed to understand the term literally.

Scott also wrote in reply to Sarah:

QUOTE
"It seems more common for him to note when he thinks the commentaries have missed the boat; he does, however, seem to make full use of the commentaries. This is why I favour his translations of suttas over others."


Scott, from your above statement, do you have Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of Samyuttanikaaya? I think Sarah has it.

If Scott or Sarah has that translation, can you post a relevant passage of it here in reply to this post as I am going to provide the Pali quote from Samyuttanikkaya where the Buddha describes and defines the term 'antaraaparinibbaayi'. To make your copy chore easier, I will chose the passage from a very short Suttam only. :-)

Here comes the Suttam quote.

-----------------------------

QUOTE
6. Dutiyaphalasuttam

536. ".. .Katame satta phalaa sattaanisamsaa? Di.t.theva dhamme pa.tikacca aam aaraadheti, no ce di.t.theva dhamme pa.tikacca aam aaraadheti, atha mara.nakaale aam aaraadheti. No ce di.t.theva dhamme aam aaraadheti, no ce mara.nakaale aam aaraadheti, atha paannam orambhaagiyaanam samyojanaanam parikkhayaa antaraaparinibbaayii hoti,..."


--------------------------------

The above Suttam can be found as Section 536, the Sixth Suttam under 7. Bodhipakkhiyavaggo, 4. Indriyasamyuttam, Mahavaggo, Samyuttanikaayo.

With best wishes,

Suan Lu Zaw

www.bodhiology.org

#9 RobertK

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 02:26 AM

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from sarah abbott

Intermediate states (antaraabhava) is always a good topic* and you raise good questions and references in your two posts on the topic.

--- Scott Duncan <scduncan@...> wrote:

Bhikkhu Bodhi writes:

QUOTE
"...If we understand the term antaraaparinibbaayi literally, as it seems we should, it then means one who attains Nibbaana in the interval between two lives, perhaps while existing in a subtle body in the intermediate state...Though the Theravaadin proponents argue against this interpretation of antaraaparinibbaayi...,the evidence from the suttas leans strongly in its favour..." (Note 65, Bojjha.ngasa.myutta, Sa.myutta Nikaaya, pp. 1902-1903.)

....

Sarah: I think that B.Bodhi's comments to suggest that this is the correct 'literal' interpretation and that the 'evidence from the suttas leans strongly in its favour' miss the target here.

First, on the 'literal' understanding of the term 'antaraaparinibbaayi', I think the explanations by the commentaries make more sense and conform to the rest of the Tipitaka:

From the Udana commentary, Enlightenment Chapter, Bahiya, I quoted the following in an earlier post:

QUOTE
Furthermore, those who still say that there is an intermediate becoming by seizing unmethodically upon the meaning of such sutta-passages as an antaraaparinibbaayin (eg Aiv 70ff) and those who are become or those seeking becoming Khp8) are to be rebuffed with there is no (such thing) since the meaning of the former sutta passage is that he is an antaraaparinibbaayin since he attains parinibbaana (parinibbaayati) by way of remainderles defilement-parinibbana through attaining the topmost path midway (antaraa), without having gone past the midpoint of his lifespan in this place and that amidst the Avihas and so on, not one who has become in an intermediate becoming, whilst the of the latter (sutta-passage) is that those who, in the former word, are spoken of as those who are become (bhuutaa), are those in whom the asavas have been destroyed, being those who are merely become, (but) who will not become (again, (whereas the latter,) being the antithesis thereof, (and spoken of as) those seeking becoming (sambhavesino) since it is becoming (sambhava.m) that they seek (esenti), are sekhas and puthujjanas on account of the fetters giving rise to becoming not having been abandoned...."[/quote

There is a lot more detail, but I'll leave it here with this last quote given in Ud-a on the same subject:

QUOTE
For when there is a straightforward meaning that follows the (canonical) Pali, what business is there in postulating an intermediate becoming of unspecified capacity?


*****

Sarah: Masefield gives a footnote about the 'Aviha' realm mentioned above.

"The Aviha is the lowest of the five Pure Abodes amongst which, as a whole, non-returners such as the antaraaparinibbaayin are said to take birth. Much the same is said of the antaraaparinibbaayin at AA iv39, whereas SAiii 143=AA ii350 distinguishes three classes of antaraaparinibbaayin (as also found at Aiv 70ff) - one who attains arahantship 100 kalapas after coming into being in the Aviha world (where the lifespan is 1000 kalpas), one who does so after 200 kalpas have passed, and one who does so after four hundred kalpas have passed.

All these seem to be in addition to the one who reaches arahantship the same day as he comes into being there, despite the fact that both cties state the division to be threefold (tividho). It is worth noting that since it is merely defilement-parinibbana that is attained at such times, no indication is given as to when any these go on attain khandha parinibbana which could be thought, given nothing to the contrary, to be only the culmination of the lifespan of 1000 kalpas."


*****
Scott:

This relates to the discussion of the cuti citta....I wonder how anantara and samanantara conditions relate to this. Any comments?
....

Sarah: It's impossible for one citta not to follow another citta by anantara (and samanantara) conditions. There cannot be any experience, let alone any realization of nibbana without the arising of cittas.

To quote again from one of my earlier posts on the topic:

Kathavatthu (Points of Controversy), Bk V111,2,Of an Intermediate State discusses in detail why the proposition that there is an intermediate state of existence is not valid.

In summary from the commentary:

QUOTE
Some (as, for instance, the Pubbaseliyas and Sammitiyas), by a careless acceptation of the Sutta-phrase - completed existence within the interval・- held that there is an interim stage where a being awaits reconception for a week or longer. The counter-argument is based on the Exalted One's dictum that there are three states of becoming only - the Kama-, the Rupa-, and the Arupa-worlds <SN ii,3 etc>. And it is because of that dictum that the opponent (in so far as he is orthodox) has to deny so many of the questions.


****

--- Scott Duncan <scduncan@...> wrote:
I'll add the sutta references Bh. Bodhi refers to:

QUOTE
"This interpretation, adopted by several non-Theravaada schools of early Buddhism, seems to be confirmed by the Purisagati Sutta (AN IV 70-74), in which the simile of the flaming chip suggests that seven types (including the three kinds of antaaraparinibbayaati) are mutually exclusive and have been graded according to the sharpness of their faculties.

....

Sarah: I believe Masefield's comment with regard to the 3 kinds of antaaraparinibbaayin, depending on the time of attainment of arahantship explains this. See also SN48:15 which gives the same detail as referred
to.
....
Scott (Bodhi note continued):

QUOTE
Additional support comes from AN II 134, 25-29, which explains antaaraparinibbayaati as one who has abandoned the fetter of rebirth (upapattisa.myojana) without yet having abandoned existence
(bhavasa.myojana)."

Sa.mmyutta Nikaaya, Bojjha.ngasa.myutta Note 65, p. 1903.
...

Sarah: Yes, the sutta distinguishes between the fetters 'that pertain to this world', 'those that give rise to rebirth' and 'those that give rise to becoming'.

The antaaraparinibbaayin [translated in the PTS edition as 'In him who passes finally away in mid-term'(of deva-life)], the first two sets of fetters (i.e those of 'this world' and those giving rise to future rebirth) are eradicated, but the fetter of existence(bhavasa.myojana) continues for the rest of that life.

*****
How are we doing here?

Metta,

Sarah

#10 RobertK

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 05:34 AM

http://groups.yahoo....p/message/49450
from sarah abbott

In 'THE BUDDHA AND HIS TEACHINGS' by Venerable Nārada, there is also a useful chapter on rebirth (CHAPTER 28,HOW REBIRTH TAKES PLACE)with the well-known quote from Questions of King Milinda:

QUOTE
"The pile of bones of (all the bodies of) one man
Who has alone one aeon lived
Would make a mountain's height --
So said the mighty seer."
-- ITIVUT'TAKA
<...>

The continuity of the flux, at death, is unbroken in point of time, and there is no breach in the stream of consciousness.

Rebirth takes place immediately, irrespective of the place of birth, just as an electromagnetic wave, projected into space, is immediately reproduced in a receiving radio set. Rebirth of the mental flux is also instantaneous and leaves no room whatever for any intermediate state [7] (antarabhava). Pure Buddhism does not support the belief that a spirit of the deceased person takes lodgement in some temporary state until it finds a suitable place for its "reincarnation."

This question of instantaneous rebirth is well expressed in the Milinda Paa:

The King Milinda questions:

"Venerable Nagasena, if somebody dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, and another dies here and is reborn in Kashmir, which of them would arrive first?

"They would arrive at the same time. O King.

"In which town were you born, O King?

"In a village called Kalasi, Venerable Sir.

"How far is Kalasi from here, O King?

"About two hundred miles, Venerable Sir.

"And how far is Kashmir from here, O King?

"About twelve miles, Venerable Sir.

"Now think of the village of Kalasi, O King.

"I have done so, Venerable Sir.

"And now think of Kashmir, O King.

"It is done, Venerable Sir.

"Which of these two, O King, did you think the more slowly and which the more quickly?

"Both equally quickly, Venerable Sir.

"Just so, O King, he who dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, is not reborn later than he who dies here and is reborn in Kashmir."

"Give me one more simile, Venerable Sir."

"What do you think, O King? Suppose two birds were flying in the air and they should settle at the same time, one upon a high and the other upon a low tree, which bird's shade would first fall upon the earth, and which bird's later?"

"Both shadows would appear at the same time, not one of them earlier and
the other later. [8]"

The question might arise: Are the sperm and ovum cells always ready,
waiting to take up the rebirth-thought?

According to Buddhism, living beings are infinite in number, and so are
world systems. Nor is the impregnated ovum the only route to rebirth.
Earth, an almost insignificant speck in the universe, is not the only
habitable plane, and humans are not the only living beings. [9] As such it
is not impossible to believe that there will always be an appropriate
place to receive the last thought vibrations. A point is always ready to
receive the falling stone."

*****
Metta,

Sarah
=======

#11 RobertK

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 05:35 AM

The main reference Harvery gives is S.IV.399-400. He quotes a passage with the Buddha saying:

QUOTE
"At a time when a flame, Vaccha, flung by the wind, goes a very long way, I declare thet flame to be fuelled by the wind (vaato). At that time, Vaccha, wind is the fuel (upaadaanam) ... At the time, Vaccha, when a being lays aside this body and is not arisen (anuppanno) in another body, for this I say craving is the fuel. Indeed, Vaccha, craving is the fuel at that time."


That seems to describe a bhaava or transitional phase between lives. He also references A.II.134 and D.I.83 (with the wandering on the road being the intermediate state). BTW, this issue seems to me to be of little import as regards the heart of the Dhamma! I don't persoanlly care what the facts are with regard to it. All existence is in the moment, whatever the nature of that existence might be.
_________

Dear Alan, Howard and Swee Boon,

Thank you for the references and comments. To me this sutta is giving a metaphor that is unrelated to the idea of anatarabhava (about craving being the fuel as Swee boon said). I think there are many, many many suttas where the conventional language of the suttas can be used to find some hint of self. The atthasalini says that those who study suttanta wrongly invariably gain wrong view because the Buddha uses conventional terms such as being and person.

Why then is antarabhava seen as a heresy and necessarily involved with self view: Ledi Sayadaw writes:
http://web.ukonline....ism/q&aledi.htm

QUOTE
"When a sentient being leaves one existence, it is reborn either as a human being, a Deva, a Brahma, an inferior animal, or as a denizen of one of the regions of hell. The sceptics and the ignorant people hold that there are intermediate stages--- Antarabhava--- between these; and that there are beings who are neither of the human, the Deva or the Brahma worlds, nor of any one of the states of existences recognized in the Scriptures,--- but are in an intermediate stage. Some assert that these transitional beings are possessed of the five khandhas"


Why did the Puggalavadins ( who believed in a subtle self) believe in anatarabhava? This article is by a Sri lankan who rejects Theravada. I quote over half of it as I think it helps to se what the controversy is about. generally the people who favour anatrabhava will reject Abhidhamma and possibly have somthing in common with The Puggalavadins and other matters. It is indeed a very big matter:

http://www.geocities...ka/journal7.htm
Puggalavada and Theravada Buddhist teachings by D. Amarasiri Weeraratne.

QUOTE
Between the 2nd and 3rd Councils 236 years after the Buddha the Conservative Elders (The Theras) broke off into two sects, viz: Vibjjavadins and Sautrantikas. Almost simultaneously the Mahasangikas also broke off into a sect called Puggalavadin. (Believers in persons.) The Vibjjavadins broke off into three sects, one of which was the Theravada - the Buddhism we have in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos etc. Thus you will see that the Puggalavada Sect and the Theravada Sect were the earliest of the sectarian divisions in Buddhism.

Controversy on Abhidhamma

The chief characteristic of the Puggalavada Sect was their rejection of the Abhidharma Pitaka as a teaching of the Buddha. They maintained that Abhidharma is apocryphal scripture cooked up by the Theravada Elders between the 2nd and 3rd Councils and adopted at the 3rd Council. The Puggalavadins as well as Sautranitikas rejected the Abhidharma Pitaka and had only 2 Pitakas viz: Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas.

In the Suttas the Buddha speaks of a person who fares on in Samsara, performs good and bad deeds and receives reward or distribution for them. In fact the entire Sutta Pitaka is based on the assumption that there is a person (puggala) who is subject to the sufferings in Sansara. The purpose of the Buddha-Dhamma is to eliminate this suffering and help them to attain Nirvana.

The Anatta concept

The Abhidharma denies the existence of a person or an individual. It accepts only fleeting thought moments which arise and flash instantly. In this process there is no person or being. The Buddha taught the Suttas to men on earth, referring to a person. In the Abhidharma he is supposed to have preached to the gods in which he denies the existence of a person or an individual. In order to bridge the gulf of this inconsistency the Abhidharma scholars invented the theory of two truths. The Puggalavadins could not accept the theory that the Buddha had taught two kinds of truth. Nowhere had he done so. The Theravadins cannot quote from any part of the Sutras where he has taught that there are two truths called Sammuti and Paramartha. Thus they refuted this contention and asserted that the Abhidharma Pitaka is a fabrication and required another concoction to maintain its validity. It is with the help of this fabrication that Abhidharma scholars reconcile the inconsistency in the Sutra and Abhidharma teachings.

The Southern School of Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism is Abhidharma oriented. All its commentaries and ancillary literature are written in a way to accommodate the Abhidarma. Ven. Buddhagosha asserted that the Abhidharma Pitaka is a teaching of the Buddha. But he himself admitted in the Atthasalini Commentary that there were ancient Sinhala Elders at Anuradhapura who challenged the validity of the Abhidharma Pitaka.

They pointed out that the Buddha had taught in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra that we should not accept teachings presented to us in his name if they are inconsistent with the Sutra and the Vinaya teachings. They also asserted that in the Anagatabhaya Sutra the Buddha envisaged a time when monks will cook up doctrines and scriptures not taught by him and present them as the Buddha-word. He admonished his followers to carefully compare such teachings with the Sutras and the Vinaya and accept them only if they are compatible and consistent.

Therefore Abhidharma being incompatible with the Sutra and Vinaya teaching was rejected by the Puggalawadins. The Sautrantika teachers too rejected the Abhidharma on the same grounds. The very name Sautrantika Sect means those who take only the Sutras as authoritative.

The controversy on Antarabhava

They accepted Abhidharma only to the extent that it is found in seed form in the Sutras. Another important teaching of the Puggalavadins was the doctrine of Antarabhava. The interim spirit existence between one life and another. This was denied by the Therevadins who asserted that the acceptance of Antarabhava by the Puggalavadins was due to a misunderstanding of some passages of the Sutras. The Puggalavadins maintained their position and showed that the misinterpretation of key passages is the work of Abhidharma oriented Theravada teachers, who tried to cut and hack the Buddha-word to suit their Abhidharma- oriented views. Their teaching was that their was no person, or being, but a mere flux of fleeting thought moments which are impersonal. The Puggalavadins considered this a bovine folly.

The Puggalavadins taught that to deny the existence of a person is to bring down the whole edifice of the Buddha-Dharma. It is absurd to say that the burden carries itself, that mere suffering exists and there is no sufferer, or that the Path exists without anyone to tread the path. This is not Buddhism, it is the Buddhaghosha brand of Abhidharma Buddhism.

The self and no-self

The Puggalavadins point out that if there are no beings, the practise of Metta would not be possible, Karma and Rebirth would be meaningless, without a person faring on in Sansara. Memories of previous lives, the preaching of the Satipattana Sutra for the purification of beings and overcoming their sufferings would be meaningless, if there is no person.

The Buddha said, "One person is born among men for the welfare and happiness of beings". Hundreds of such texts can be quoted from the Sutras. To deny a person in the ultimate sense (the highest truth) and accept him in a conventional sense is to talk with two tongues and dilute the truth of the Buddha-word. The Sutta Nipata says that "Buddhas have no two words." "Truth is one and not many". (Ekam hi saccam na dutiyamatthi). Two contrary truths is foreign to the Buddha¨s teaching.

The chief difference between Puggalavada and Theravada comes with the acceptance and non-acceptance of the Abhidharma Pitaka as a teaching of the Buddha. Theravada is steeped in Abhidharma and is abhidharma oriented. The Puggala vadins have only two Pitakas namely Sutra and Vinaya Pitakas. The Puggalavadins took care not to use the word Atman or soul as is understood in Vedanta, i.e. an immutable self characterised by permanence, bliss and substance.

The Puggala of the Pudgalavadins is a self that is subject to impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and is not to be considered as the essence or core for those reasons. This appears to be a halfway house between the Vedantic soul and the no-soul doctrine of the Theravadins. The Buddha is neither an anatmavadi nor atmavadi.

The Puggalavadins teach that the puggala arises simultaneously with the five aggregates, is not within or outside them, but forms a structural unit with them."


==================

RobertK

#12 RobertK

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 05:37 AM

http://groups.yahoo....p/message/49214
From sarah abbott

frank <frank@...> wrote:
.....In this in between state when I'm not out of my old house, not in the new house. I might stay at a friend's house, I might go to a hotel, I might camp out on the beach. The deal might fall through if the termite inspection fails, or a hurricane wipes out the new house. There's a lot possibilities in this antarabhava state between my two houses.
....

I see you still have your descriptive way with words:).

As Chris indicated, I've written a few posts on this topic and will add a quote at the end from one on the Bahiya Sutta and commentary at the end of the post. (Full post at this link:

http://groups.yahoo..../message/24939)

Don't you think that when we understand that when we talk about life, realms, planes and rebirth that we're really only talking about cittas, cetasikas and rupas? Doesn't this make it simpler?

Just as now there are only conditioned cittas with their accompanying mental factors and conditioned rupas arising and falling away in rapid succession, so it was in the past and so it will be in the future.

Apart from these 5 khandhas, there is no other being to hang out anywhere.......Even if there is a short-lived 'home' for cittas for even just a few moments, life is continuing in that bhumi or realm.

There's death and birth of cittas, of consciousness all the time......the nature of these cittas constitutes the realm or home, however temporary or long-term, as I understand. All possible alternative domains are covered in the realms discussed in the teachings, just as even a night out camping on the beach has its particular domain don't you think?

Glad to see you around, Frank and hope you're settling well into your new home if you've already moved back to California.

Look forward to any further comments. I'd like to undersand your reasoning better.

Metta,

Sarah
p.s We discussed in Bangkok at the weekend how we can't tell from medical science when the last moment of life (cuti citta) is precisely. Even so, I have no problem in having made it clear that any part of my body can be used for any transplants or research.....I see these as mere rupas that have served their use.....However, it's a sensitive and personal issue and I respect your concerns and views on it, Frank. No rules on these kinds of decision at all, whatever the beliefs.....

=====

S: From my earlier post linked above, Ud-a continues:

QUOTE
It is, moreover, wrong on the part of those who seek reference to an intermediate becoming (antaraabhava.m) by seizing upon the phrase ubhayamantarena [in both]. For the existence of an intermediate becoming is altogether rejected in the Abhidhamma. ....Furthermore, those who still say that there is an intermediate becoming by seizing unmethodically upon the meaning of such sutta-passages as an antaraaparinibbaayin (eg Aiv70ff) and 'those who are become or those seeking becoming' Khp8) are to be rebuffed with 'there is no (such thing)' since the meaning of the former sutta passage is that he is an antaraaparinibbaayin since he attains parinibbaana (parinibbaayati) by way of remainderles defilement-parinibbana through attaining the topmost path midway (antaraa)[in lifespan]...., whilst the meaning of the latter (sutta-passage) is that those who, in the former word, are spoken of as 'those who are become' (bhuutaa), are those in whom the asavas have been destroyed, being those who are merely become, (but) who will not become (again, (whereas the latter,) being the antithesis thereof, (and spoken of as) 'those seeking becoming' (sambhavesino) since it is becoming (sambhava.m) that they seek (esenti), are sekhas and puthujjanas on account of the fetters giving rise to becoming not having been abandoned...."


There is a lot more detail, but I'll leave it here with this last quote given in Ud-a on the same subject:

QUOTE
For when there is a straightforward meaning that follows the (canonical) Pali, what business is there in postulating an intermediate becoming of unspecified capacity?


*****

#13 RobertK

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Posted 10 May 2007 - 03:51 AM

http://dharmafarer.g...diatesd2.17.pdf

Living Word of the Buddha SD vol 2 no 17 Is rebirth immediate?

1

Is Rebirth Immediate? A study of canonical sources

Selected with notes by Piya Tan ©2003
QUOTE
Introduction

1. Early Buddhism and later teachings

The Pali Canon contains some of the oldest materials we have of early Indian Buddhism. Its
language is simple, colloquial, and beautiful. However, many of the teachings and doctrines of the early
Canon can be quite profound and confounding even for advanced but unawakened scholars. As such, it is
common for students and experts alike to rely on the Commentaries and later works by respected teachers
to throw light on such difficult passages and teachings.

The post-Buddha Abhidhamma and the Commentaries on the early texts are in themselves very
profound, not to mention their more developed and more systematic (hence more difficult) language.
While the Suttas present the Dharma (teaching and truth) both in terms of conventional (sammati or
sammuti) ideas and on the ultimate (param’attha) level (AA 1:95; KvuA 34), “graduated to suit the mind
of the average man,”1 the Abhidhamma is an attempt to present only the essential Buddhist doctrines,
that is, the ultimate truth minus the conventional truth.2

However, there is sometimes a tendency to regard the words of the Abhidhamma and the Commentaries
as being more “canonical” than the Pali Canon itself—especially common amongst those who come to
know of the Abhidhamma without some useful knowledge of the Suttas. However, if the Suttas are wellstudied and analyzed, all the essential doctrines are quite clearly and comprehensively expounded there.
Interestingly, most if not all such early doctrines are echoed in other schools outside the Theravada
even when the Theravadins themselves differ (or appear to differ) from the Canon.

2. Personal study and practice
When personal spiritual practice is properly combined with modern critical scholarship, that is,
when one looks at the Buddhist texts as being more than merely religious literature but as the records of
the momentous spiritual awakening of the Buddha and his saints, then we have the most effective and
profitable tools for understanding the Buddha Word. When these tools are applied to the Pali Canon, there
is little need to fall back on the Commentaries and the Abhidhamma, since the latter two are themselves
culturally bound and often sectarian.3

However, if we are aware of the special features and limitations of the Commentaries and the Abhidhamma,
and use them with an understanding that they are supplementary to the Canon, then they would
serve as effective and profitable research tools in our efforts to understand and benefit from the Buddha’s
teachings, especially in an age when we have the complete Pali Canon and other early texts that are
more accessible and more closely scrutinized than ever before and more easily and effectively disseminated
in a universal language.

When this understanding of spiritual scholarship is applied to the discussion of such salient problems
as the nature of rebirth (whether it is immediate or not), we can uncover some clear evidences in
the Canon itself that help us clarify this problem, which apparently even the Commentaries and Abhidhamma have not totally addressed. Occasionally, if not frequently, the land-sighting bird has to return to the ship.

1 Nyanatiloka, Guide Through the Abhidhamma-piaka, 1957:xii f.
2 Two good books on Abhidhamma for the serious beginner would be the Visuddhi,magga (by Buddhaghosa)
and the Abhidhamm’attha Sagaha (by Anuruddha), both of which have been translated into English.
3 See for example Gombrich 1992a:160 f.

Living Word of the Buddha SD vol 2 no 17 Is rebirth immediate?

2

3. Problem of the intermediate state

Certain Theravada teachers do not accept the doctrine of the intermediate state (antara,bhava), claiming
that the Buddha did not teach it.4 The main canonical argument (perhaps the only one) is that the
Buddha mentions only three states of existence: the Sense World, the Form World and the Formless
World. If the intermediate state exists, it should fit into one of these worlds, but it is nowhere mentioned
to be so (Kvu id::Kvu:SR 212 f).5

The earliest reference to the doctrine of “immediate rebirth” is found in the Milinda,pañha (which
the Burmese tradition regards as canonical). This is a work of Buddhist apologetics in the form of a
debate and discussion between Menander (a 2nd century Indo-Greek king, Menandros) and a monk named
Nagasena.6 Milinda asks the question:

“Who is reborn faster: one who is reborn in the Brahma world or one who is reborn in Kashmir?”

Nagasena answers that both of them are reborn in equal time, and gives two similes. In the first
simile, Nagasena asks Milinda to think of two places—one 200 leagues away (Kashmir) and another just
12 leagues away (Kalasi)—and asks the king how fast he needs to think of either of them. The king
answers that he takes equal time. The second simile is a classic one:

“What do you think about this, sire? If two birds were to fly through the air and one should
alight on a tall tree and the other on a short tree, and if they came to rest simultaneously, whose
shadow would fall on the earth first and whose shadow would fall on the earth later?”
“They would do so simultaneously, revered sir.” (Miln 83, Horner’s tr)

However, it is important to note what is not said here: there is no mention of the intermediate state. Nagasena’s argument is simply that rebirth is immediate, taking only a thought-moment.
On the other hand, the Pali Canon—and the texts of the Mahayana and Vajrayana—all agree that
there is an intermediate period (not exceeding 7 weeks). In this study, we shall examine the
Kutuhala,sala Sutta (S 44.9/4:398-400), the Maha Taha,sakhaya Sutta (M 38.26-29) and various
other canonical sources on the nature of the “intermediate state.” Vasubandhu’s Abhidharma,kosa, a 4th-
century Sarvastivada work, (especially Abhk:P 3.10, 12de, 40ab) contains interesting teachings on the
intermediate being. For this paper, I have relied heavily on Peter Harvey’s excellent work on the subject
(1995 ch 6), which is recommended for your reading. I have also given additional references of my own.
Historically, the rejection of an intermediate state is a dogma that first appears in later polemical
works, namely, the Katha,vatthu (3rd century BCE) and the Milinda,pañha (2nd century). Practically all the
other living schools and traditions accept the notion of the intermediate state. Even modern-day
monastics, like Brahmavamso openly speak of it:

Another passage which gives strong support to the ‘intermediate’ state is found in [A 7.52] which
lists the seven types of non-returner together with similes. The first three types of anagamis are
called ‘antara,parinibbayin’ and are likened to a spark flying off a hot piece of metal which cools:
1. just after falling off, 2. while flying up, 3. while falling down, all before establishing themselves
on the ground. The implication is of a state between death and re-appearance in the
Suddh’avasa.” (Personal communication) [5]

Brahmavamso also mentioned in one of his public talks in Singapore (2002) that his experiences in
dealing with the dying in Thailand strongly suggest the existence of the intermediate state.7

4 Kvu 361-366; UA 92-94 = UA:M 136-140; Buddhadatta’s Bharatiya Bauddh’acaryaya, 1949:229,14.
5 The Katha,vatthu was written 218 years after the Maha Parinirvana by Moggali,putta Tissa, the presiding
monk at the Buddhist Council held during Asoka’s reign in India (KvuA 4,25).
6 On some problems of the Milinda,pañha, see von Hinuber, 1996 §III.4.
7 See John Ireland, U:I 128 n21 & Mahasi Sayadaw, 1981:13 f; also Bodhi S:B 1406 n53, 1411 n75.

Living Word of the Buddha SD vol 2 no 17 Is rebirth immediate?

3
Canonical references to the intermediate state

1. The Maha Taha,sakhaya Sutta (M 38.26/1:265 f) [Excerpt]
Bhikshus, the descent of the being-to-be-born (gabbhassâvakkanti) takes place through the union of
three things. Here, there is the union of the mother and the father; but the mother is not in season, and the
being-to-be-born8 is not present. In this case, no [266] descent of a being-to-be-born occurs.

But when
• there is the union of the mother and father;
• the mother is in season; and
• the being-to-be-born (gandhabba) is present
—through the union of these three the descent of the being-to-be-born occurs. (M 38.26/1:265 f)

2. Assalayana Sutta (M 93.18/2:156 f) [Excerpt]
[Five hundred brahmins from various provinces who have assembled in Savatthi choose the 16-yearold
brahmin student Assalayana, a master of the Vedas and brahminical learning, to challenge the
Buddha in his view on “the purification of the four castes.” Despite the protests of Assalayana who thinks
the Buddha “speaks the Dharma,” he is nevertheless asked to challenge the Buddha. Assalayana
reluctantly presents his predicament before the Buddha who expounds to him various similes, and closes
his arguments with this story regarding the seer Asita (“the dark”) Devala and the seven brahmins. Not
recognizing the seer, the seven brahmins repeatedly cursed him, but he became progressively “more
comely, beautiful, handsome.” On realizing their mistake and discovering his spirituality, they paid him
homage.]
Then the seven brahmin seers went to see the seer Asita Devala9 and paid homage to him. Then he
said to them:
“Sirs, I heard that while the seven brahmin seers were dwelling in leaf huts in the forest, this evil false
view arose in them: ‘Brahmins are the highest caste, those of any other caste are inferior; brahmins are the
fairest caste, those of any other caste are dark; only brahmins are pure, others are not; brahmins alone are
the sons of Brahma, the offspring of Brahma, born of his mouth, born of Brahma, created by Brahma,
heirs of Brahma.’
‘But, sirs, do you know if the mother who bore you went with only a brahmin and never went with a
non-brahmin?’
‘No, sir.’
‘But, sirs, do you know if your mother’s mothers back to the seventh generation went only with
brahmins and never with non-brahmins?’
‘No, sir.’
‘But, sirs, do you know if the father who bore you went with only a brahminee and never went with a
non-brahminee?’
‘No, sir.’
‘But, sirs, do you know if your father’s fathers back to the seventh generation went only with brahminees
and never with non-brahminees?’
8 “Being-to-be-born,” gandhabba, does not refers to a “heavenly minstrel” or any celestial being. It is used here and in Assalayana S (M 93.18/2:157) in this sense of a being arriving for rebirth. The Maha Nidana S (D 15/2:63) speaks of consciousness as “descending into the mother’s womb.” See n4.
9 Asita Devala. MA identifies him with the Buddha in a past life to show that even then when the Buddha was
of inferior birth, the brahmins could answer his question: how can they do so now that he is Buddha? His namesake
visited the baby Siddhattha, they were most likely two different individuals. Both of them were also called Kaa
(“the black”) Devala. It is possible that they could be the same person.

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‘No, sir.’
‘But, sirs, do you know how the descent of a being-to-be-born comes about?’
‘Sir, we know how the descent of a being-to-be-born comes about. [157] Here, there is the union of the mother and father; the mother is in season; and the being-to-be-born is present; —through the union of these three the descent of the being-to-be-born takes place.10
Then, sirs, do you know for sure whether that being-to-be-born is a kshatriya, or a brahmin, or a
merchant, or a worker?
‘Sir, we do not know for sure whether that being-to-be-born is a kshatriya, a brahmin, or a merchant,
or a worker.’
‘That being so, sir, then, who are you?’
‘That being so, sir, we do not know who we are.’

3. The Kutuhala,sala Sutta (S 44.9/4:398-400) [Complete text]
(The Kutuhala,sala Sutta speaks of how a being “a being has laid down this body but has not yet been
reborn into another body” [15].)
2 Then the wanderer Vaccha,gotta approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him.
When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down at one side.
3 Sitting thus at one side, the wanderer Vacchagotta, said this to the Blessed One:
“Master Gotama, during days gone by, a number of recluses, brahmins and wanderers of other faiths
had assembled in the debating hall11 and were sitting together when this conversation arose amongst
them.12
4 This Puraa Kassapa—leader of an order, leader of a group, the teacher of a group, well-known
and famous ford-maker,13 considered holy14 by the masses—declare that rebirth of a disciple who passed
away and died, thus:
‘That person was reborn here; that person was reborn there.’
And in the case of a disciple who was a person of the highest kind, a supreme person, one who had
attained the supreme attainment, when that disciple has passed away and died he too declares his rebirth
thus:
‘That person was reborn here; that person was reborn there.’
The Makkhali Gosala….
This Nigaha Nataputta….
This Sañjaya Belahiputta….
This Pakudha Kaccayana….
9 This Ajita Kesakambali…[399]....
10 This recluse Gotama—leader of an order, leader of a group, the teacher of a group, well-known
and famous ford-maker, considered holy by the masses—declare that rebirth of a disciple who passed
10 Gandhabba. The meaning of this term becomes clear in the following conversation. See n2.
11 “Debating hall,” kutuhala,sala, from kutuhala, “excited talk, argument.” The name is derived from the noise
of the debates and talk, and cries of “What does he say? What does he say?” See D 9.1/1:179; M 77.6 /2:2 for
mention of such a hall.
12 For the six heretical teachers, see my Samaññaphala S tr (§16.32). See also S:B 1456 n380.
13 “Ford-maker,” tittha,kara = titthiya, a spiritual guide who shows the way across the river of suffering. It is
not always used in a good sense. Sometimes, it has the pejorative connotation of “quack” just as today the word
“jesuit” (orig, ie with a capital j, a member of a Catholic priestly order) has come to mean “one given to intrigue and
equivocation; a crafty person” (Webster’s 3rd New International Dictionary). See D 1:47, 116, 3:44, 46; M 1:198; S
1:65, 4:37, 394; Sn pp 90, 92; Sn 381, 891.
14 “Holy,” sadhu, “good, excellent, true.”

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away and died, thus:
‘That person was reborn here; that person was reborn there.’
But in the case of a disciple who was a person of the highest kind, a supreme person, one who had
attained the supreme attainment, when that disciple has passed away and died he does not declare his
rebirth thus:
‘That person was reborn here; that person was reborn there.’
Rather, he declares of him: ‘He has cut off craving, severed the fetter and, by completely breaking
through conceit, he has made an end to suffering.’
11 Doubt and uncertainty have arisen in me, Master Gotama, regarding how the Dharma of the
recluse Gotama is to be understood.”
12 “It is befitting your being uncertain, that you doubt, Vaccha. Uncertainty has arisen in you over
what is doubtful.
Vaccha, rebirth is for one with fuel (upadana),15 not for one without fuel, I say!
13 Just as a fire burns with fuel, but not without fuel,16 so, Vaccha, I declare rebirth for one with
fuel, not for one without fuel.”
14 “Master Gotama, when a flame is tossed by the wind and goes some distance, what does Master
Gotama declare to be its fuel on that occasion?”
“Vaccha, when a flame is tossed by the wind and goes some distance, it is fuelled by air, I say. For on
that occasion, air is its fuel.” [400]
15 “And, Master Gotama, when a being has laid down this body but had not yet been reborn into
another body, what does Master Gotama declare to be its fuel on that occasion?”
“When, Vaccha, a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn into another body,
it is fuelled by craving, I say!”

4. The five kinds of non-returners

Sila Sutta (S 46.3/5:69 f)17
12 Bhikshus, when these seven awakening-factors18 have been developed and cultivated here in this
way, seven fruits and benefits may be expected. What are the seven fruits and benefits?
13 (a) One attains final knowledge early in this very life.
(cool.gif If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life, then one attains final knowledge
at the time of death.
(1) If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life or at the time of death, then with the
utter destruction of the five lower fetters,19 one becomes an attainer of nirvana in the intermediate state
[antara,parinibbayi, D 3:237].

15 “Fuel.” The Pali upadana is a pun meaning both “fuel” and “clinging.” Here it is translated in keeping with
the simile of the fire. A similar usage of anahara (lit “without food”) appear in Aggi Vaccha,gotta S (M 72.19/
1:487) where the Buddha uses the simile of a fire “without fuel” to illustrate the nature of nirvana.
16 This sentence, in essence, is the same as Sn 1074: acci yatha vata,vegena khitto | attha paleti, na upeti
sakha (Sn 1074), “Just as a flame tossed about by the force of the wind…goes out and no longer counts (as a flame),” (Norman, 1992:120) a teaching the Buddha gave to Upasiva.
17 See SD 10.1 for the full sutta.
18 “Awakening-factors,” sambojjhaga: mindfulness, dharma-investigation, effort, zest, tranquillity, concentration,
equanimity. See Anapana,sati S (M 118) = SD 7.13 §29-40nn.
19 The 10 Fetters are: (1) Personality view (sakkaya,dihi), (2) persistent doubt (vicikiccha), (3) attachment to rules and rites (sila-b,bata,paramasa), (4) sensual lust (kama,raga), (5) repulsion (paigha), (6) greed for form existence (rupa,raga), (7) greed for formless existence (arupa,raga), (8) conceit (mana), (9) restlessness (uddhacca), (10) ignorance (avijja) (S 5:61, A 5:13, Vbh 377). In some places, no. 5 (paigha) is replaced by illwill (vyapada). The first 5 are the lower fetters (orambhagiya), and the rest, the higher fetters (uddhambhagiya).

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(2) If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life, or at the time of death, or in the
interval, then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters, one becomes an attainer of nirvana upon
landing [upahacca,parinibbayi, D 3:237].
(3) If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life, or at the time of death, or in the
interval, or upon landing, then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters, one becomes an attainer
of nirvana without exertion [asakhara,parinibbayi, D 3:237].20
(4) If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life, or at the time of death, or in the
interval, or upon landing, then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters, one becomes an attainer
of nirvana with exertion [sa,sakhara,parinibbayi, D 3:237].21
(5) If one does not attain final knowledge early in this very life, or at the time of death, or in the
interval, or upon landing, or with exertion, then with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters, one
becomes one bound upstream, heading towards the Akaniha22 realm [uddhasoto Akaniha.gami, D
3:237].
19 Bhikshus, when these seven awakening-factors have been developed and cultivated here in
this way, these seven fruits and benefits may be expected. (S 46.3/5:69 f)
This list of the five kinds of non-returners is found in the Sila Sutta (S 46.3/5:69 f) and a number of
canonical passages, namely:
Sagiti Sutta (D 33.1.9(18)/3:237)
(Indriya) Vitthara Sutta I (S 48.15/5:201)
Eka,biji Sutta (S 48.24/5:204 f)
Satt’anisasa Sutta (S 48.66/5:237 f)
(Iddhi) Phala Sutta II (S 51.26/5:285)
(Anapana) Phala Sutta II (S 54.5/5:314)
Sarakani Sutta II (S 55.25.8/5:378 )
(Uddesa) Sikkha Sutta II (A 3.86.3/1:233, only last & first kinds mentioned)
(Uddesa) Sikkha Sutta III (A 3.87.3/1:234)
(Cattaro Puggala) Sayojana Sutta (A 4.131/2:133 f, listed in reverse)
Dukkha Anatta Nibbana Sutta I (A 7.16.4/4:13 f)
Dukkha Anatta Nibbana Sutta II (A 7.17.4/4:14)
Purisa,gati Sutta (A 7.52/4:70)
(Satta,puggala) Ahuneyya Sutta I (A 7.80/4:146)
(Sariputta) Sa,upadisesa Sutta (A 9.12.6/4:380)
(Dihi,sampanna) Niha Sutta (A 63.3/5:120)
(Sotapanna) Avecca Sutta (A 64.3/5:120)
Puggala Paññatti (Pug §42-46/16 f)
20 asakhara,parinibbayi (D 3:237). BDict: “Asakharika-citta, an Abhidhamma term signifying a ‘state of consciousness
arisen spontaneously,’ie without previous deliberations, preparation, or prompting by others; hence: ‘unprepared,
unprompted.’ This term and its counterpart (sasakharika [see foll n]), probably go back to a similar distinction
in the Suttas [A 4.171; ‘Path’ 184]. See Table I; examples in Vism 14.84 f.” (normalized)
21 sa,sakhara,parinibbayi (D 3:237). BDict: “Sasakharika-citta (in Dhs: sasakharena): a prepared, or
prompted, state of consciousness, arisen after prior deliberation (eg weighing of motives) or induced by others (command,
advice, persuasion)—see Table I.; exemplified in Vism 14.84 f.” (normalized).
22 Akaiha. The Suddh’avasa or “Pure Abodes” are a group of 5 heavens in the Formless Realm populated
only by non-returners, and where they attain arhathood and nirvana. The 5 Abodes, ie their inhabitants and
respective lifespans, are: These worlds are Aviha (“non-declining,” 1000 MK), Atappa (“Unworried,” 2000 MK),
Sudassa (“Clearly Visible,” 4000 MK), Sudassi (“Clear-visioned,” 8000 MK) and Akaiha (“Highest,” 16000 MK)
(D 3:237, M 3:103, Vbh 425, Pug 42-46). An MK = Maha Kappa is a full cycle of a world-period or cycle of the
universe (V 3:4=D 3:51, 111=It 99; D 1:14; A 2:142). For celestial map, see Kevaha S (SD 1.7); for world cycle,
see Aggañña S (SD 2.19).

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The Sila Sutta (S 46.3/5:69 f) discusses the five types of non-returners in the same order as
at the Sagiti Sutta (D 33.1.9/3:237), listing them after someone who has become an Arahat “at
the time of dying”: clearly this implies that the order represents a decreasing speed of spiritual
attainment. This would certainly make it likely that the first of the five types of non-returners
attains nibbana “in between” death and rebirth.

The interpretation given in the Theravadin Abhidhamma and commentaries, though, is that
this non-returner attains nibbana immediately after “arising” in a new rebirth, or at some
time before the middle of the life-span there (Pug 16; AA 4:7). Less contentiously, the next of
the non-returners is seen as one who comes to attain nibbana between the mid-point of his lifespan
there and his death; the fifth type is one who is reborn in each of the five “pure abodes” until
he attains nibbana in the last of these (Pug 17).
(Harvey, 1995:100; emphasis added; refs revised)

5. Similes of the 5 kind of non-returners

Peter Harvey continues his argument that the above Theravada interpretation of the one who “attains
nirvana in between,” in the light of the Purisa,gati Sutta (A 7.52/4:70-74), “can be seen to be a rather
weak and strained one” (Harvey 1995:100). The sutta compares the five kinds of non-returners [4] respectively
to:
When a hot iron slab is beaten,
1a a bit of which comes off from the hot iron, and then cools down;
1b a bit of which comes off, flies up and then cools down; antara,parinibbayi
1c a bit of which comes off, flies up, and then, before cutting into
the ground, cools down (anupahacca,tala);
2 a bit of which cools after cutting into the ground (upahacca,tala);
3 a bit of which flies up and falls on a bit of grass or sticks, igniting them, then cools down
after they are consumed;
4 a bit of which falls on a large heap of grass or sticks, but cools down after they are
consumed;
5 a bit of which flies up and falls down on a heap of grass or sticks such that a fire spreads,
but then goes out when it reaches water or rock, etc.
(A 7.52/4:70-74; DA 1030 = AA 2:350; cf SA 3:114; AA 4:7; Masefield 1986:115)
The interpretation given in the Theravada Abhidhamma and Commentaries is that the non-returner is
reborn in the Pure Realms (Suddh’avasa), and there attains nirvana immediately after “arising” in a new
rebirth, or at some time before the middle of the life-span there (Pug 16, AA 4:7). However, there is no
question of whether the non-returner is “reborn” by means of conception or “descending into the womb.”
They are all of immediate “spontaneous birth” (opapatika, M 1:465), rather than being born from a womb
or an egg (M 1:173).

As such, to “cut into the ground” refers to the start of a new rebirth. For the “fire” to spread and
then go out (simile 5) means to the experience of several rebirths before the non-returner “cools” by
attaining nirvana.

As the Theravadin interpretation of the antara-parinibbayi non-returner (1a-c) is that he attains
nibbana at some time between the start and middle of the next life, and the “cutting-short (upahacca-)”
non-returner (2) attains it after this, then the “cutting into the ground (upahaccatala)” of the simile would have to represent the middle of this life, which seems most artificial. Even the commentary (AA 4:39) sees similes 1a-c as involving a “bit” which is still in “space,” “not having reached the earth”; reaching the earth would naturally apply to the very start of a life. The antara-parinibbayi must thus be one who attains nibbana after death and before any rebirth. (Harvey 1995:101; Masefield 1986:116, 120 agrees; cf Wayman 1974:236)

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6. Existence (bhava)
(6a) The (Cattaro Puggala) Sayojana Sutta (A 4.131.3-4/2:133 f) mentions three kinds of fetters
that cause rebirth, namely:
(1) The lower fetters (that bind one to the world of sense-desire) (oram,bhagiya sayojana);
(2) The fetters that accrue arising (uppatti,pailabhika sayojana);
(3) The fetters that accrue existence (bhava,pailabhika sayojana).
(A 4.131.3-4/2:133 f; see Masefield 1986:114)
The first kind of fetters are abandoned by one “going upstream to Akaniha,” ie the least advanced nonreturner.
The first two groups of fetters are abandoned by the antara,parinibbayi non-returner. All three
groups of fetters are abandoned by the arhat.

The mention of the last two groups of fetters is very interesting and instructive. The “upstream” nonreturner
is clearly not beyond “arising” (uppatti) in a rebirth since he has several rebirths in the Pure
Abodes, ending in the Akaniha. Only the highest kind of non-returner is beyond such “arising,” but he is
not an arhat, ie one who has attained nirvana in this very life by destroying the fetters leading to “existence.”

The non-returner, on the other hand, only attains nirvana after his death but before “arising” in
any rebirth, an interim period known as “existence” (bhava).

It can thus be seen that the “early Suttas” did accept a between-lives state, known as
“becoming,” [existence,]23 in which it is possible for a non-returner to attain nibbana. An
Arahat, though, attains nibbana in this life, so as not to enter “becoming,” while most beings
pass through it and go on to arise in a rebirth. (Harvey 1995:102)

(6b) There is evidently an allusion to this state of “existence” as an intermediate state between death
and the next life in the Chann’ovada Sutta (M114 = S 35), where Maha Cunda instructs Channa the
Vajji24, quoting the Buddha thus:
For one who is dependent there is wavering (calita);
For one who is independent, there is no wavering.
When there is no wavering, there is tranquillity (passaddhi).
When there is tranquillity, there is no inclination (towards craving or existence) (nati).25
When there is no inclination, there is no coming and going (agati,gati).26
When there is no coming and going, there is no passing away and rebirth (cut’upapata).
When there is no passing away and rebirth, there is neither here nor beyond nor in between the
two (na ubhaya antarena).
—This itself is the end of suffering. (M 144.11/3:266=S 35.87.20/4:59=U 81; cf S 12.40/2:67)
(6c) Another well known canonical statement of an intermediate state (albeit rejected by the
Commentaries) is that found in the Malukya,putta Sutta (S 35.95):
23 The Sarvastivadins teach that there are four kinds of “existence” (bhava): intermediate-existence (antara -bhava); arising-existence (at the moment of conception) (upapatti,bhava); ante-death existence (during life, prior to death) (purva,kala,bhava); and death-existence (at the moment of death) (maraa,bhava) (Abhk:P 3.10-13cd/2:45, 37d-38c/117; Mahavyutpatti 245, 1271).
24 The other Channa was a Sakya, that is, Prince Siddhattha’s charioteer.
25 “Inclination,” nati, lit “bending,” alt tr “bias” (M:ÑB 1116).
26 “Coming and going,” agati,gati (text has wr agati,gati) (D 1:162; M 1:153, 328Tha 917; S 3:53; A
3:54=74), where it refers to “rebirth, re-arising.” At M 1:334=335, Mara says bhikkhuna… n’eva janami agati
gati va, seems to mean: “I do not know how to get a chance over the those bhikkhus” (CPD)

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27“When, Malukyaputta, regarding what is seen, heard, sensed and cognized by you,
in the seen will be only the seen;
in the heard there will only be the heard;
in the sensed there will only be the sensed;
in the cognized there will only be the cognized,
then, Malukyaputta, you are ‘not by that’.28
When, Malukyaputta, you are ‘not by that,’ then you will ‘not be therein’.29
When, Malukyaputta, you are ‘not therein,’ then you will ‘be neither here nor beyond nor in between
the two’.30
7. Beings seeking rebirth
7a. Sambhavesi. The Maha Taha,sakhaya Sutta (M 38.15/1:261) provides another important
clue to our understanding of the intermediate being. In his teachings to correct Sati’s wrong view that the
same consciousness migrates from life to life, the Buddha declares:
Bhikshus, there are these four kinds of food for the maintenance of beings that already have
come to be (bhuta) and for the support of beings seeking a new existence (sambhavesi). What
are the four?
They are material food as nutriment, gross and subtle; contact as the second; mental
volition as the third; and consciousness as the fourth.31 (M 38.15/1:261)
Here, sambhavesi clearly refers to the intermediate being. This word, evidently with the same meaning, is
also found in the Metta Sutta (Sn 1.8/147 = Kh no 9):
5 Be they seen or unseen; [26]
Those that dwell far or near;
Those already born or those seeking birth (sambhavesi)—
May all beings be happy-minded! (Sn 147 = Kh no 9)
In the Abhidharma,kosa, a Sanskrit Buddhist work, the term sabhavaiin is one of the five names for
27 This teaching is also given to the ascetic Bahiya Daruciriya (Bahiya S, U 1.10/8). According to SA, in the
form base, i.e. in what is seen by eye-consciousness, “there is only conciousness,” that is, as eye-consciousness is not affected by lust, hatred or delusion in relation to form that has come into range, so the javana will be just a mere eye-consciousness by being empty of lust, etc. So, too, for the heard and the sensed. The “cognized” is the object cognized by the mind-door adverting (mano,dvar‰vajjana). In the cognized, “only the cognized” is the adverting (consciousness) as the limit. As one does not become lustful, etc, by adverting, so I will set my mind with adverting as the limit, not allowing it to arise by way of lust, etc. You will not be by “that” (na tena): you will not be aroused by by that lust, or irritated by that hatred, or deluded by that delusion. Then you will not be “therein” (na tattha): the seen.” For eye-consciousness sees only form in form, not some essence that is permanent, etc. So too for the remaining types of consciousness (ie the javana series, SP ), there will be merely the seen. Or, alternatively, the meaning is “My mind will be mere eye-consciousness, which means the cognizing of form in form. When you are not aroused by that lust, etc, then “you will not be therein”—not bound, not attached, not established in what is seen, heard, sensed and cognized. (See Bodhi S:B 1410 n75)

28 Na tena, that is, one would not be aroused “by that” lust, etc. See prec n.
29 Na tattha, that is, one would not be “therein,” i.e. in the seen, etc. See prec n.
30 “Be neither here…nor in between the two,” n’ev’idha na hura na ubhayam antarena, meaning that one
would not be reborn anywhere. Comy rejects in between the two (ubhayam antarena) as implying an intermediate state (antara,bhava). However, a number of canonical texts apparently support this notion (see, for example, Kutuhala, sala S, where the Buddha declares: “When, Vaccha, a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, I declare that it is fuelled by craving.” (S 4:400; cf M 1:266, 2:157).
31 See M:ÑB 1186 n120 on sambhavesi and ahara.

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the intermediate existence, along with manomaya, gandharva and (abhi)nirv tti (Abhk:P 3.40c-41a/-
2:122).
7b. Mindful conception. In this connection, it should be noted that the Acchariya,abbhuta Sutta
(M 123) records that when the Bodhisattva, is reborn in the Tusita heaven, while remaining there, and
when he descends into his mother’s womb (during the Conception), all these are done “mindfully and
fully knowing” (sati sampajano).32 The Sampasadaniya Sutta (D 28) and the Sagiti Sutta (D 33)
speak of the four modes of conception (gabbhâvakkhantiya):
(1) one descends into the mother’s womb unknowing, stays there unknowing, and leaves it unknowing;
(2) one descends into the mother’s womb fully knowing, but stays there unknowing, and leaves it
unknowing;
(3) one descends into the mother’s womb fully knowing, stays there fully knowing, but leaves it unknowing;
(4) one descends into the mother’s womb fully knowing, stays there fully knowing, and leaves it
fully knowing” (sampajano c’eva matu,kucchi okkamati, sampajano matu kucchismi hati,
sampajano matu kucchisma nikkhamati).33 (D 28.5/3:103 = D 33.1.11(37)/3:231)
A number of other suttas similarly speak of the fully conscious conception, gestation and nativity of the
Bodhisattva.34

These modes of rebirth, especially (2-4), do not actually prove the existence of an intermediate state
but possibly demonstrate the likelihood of immediate rebirth, and understandably form the basis for the
dogma in some fundamentalist Theravada circles that “rebirth is immediate” and that that is the one and
only truth. Furthermore, the last three modes of rebirth show that a spiritually advanced person is able to
consciously choose his future parents and place of rebirth.

8. Similes of the intermediate state
(8a) The intermediate state (bhava, antara,bhava) evidently functions as a transition between different
forms of rebirth, as a vehicle “for transferring the continuity of character and also a time for the necessary
re-adjustment.” In fact, the Samatiyas saw the between-lives as a time for readjustment before a
new mode of self-expression. (Sammitiya,nikaya Sastra, tr K Venkataraman)
(8b) There is an important connection between the similes 1a-c [5] and the knowledge of the passingaway
and arising of beings (cutûpapata,ñaa) (D 1:83). The Samañña,phala Sutta (D 2), in explaining
this power of the recollection of beings faring according to their karma, employs this simile:
Maharajah, just as if there were a palace in the central square [of a town where four roads
meet] (sighaaka), and a man with good eyesight standing on the top of it were to see people
entering (pavisanti) a house, leaving (nikkhamanti) it, wandering (sañcaranti) along the
carriage-road, and sitting down (nisinna) in the central square [where four roads meet]. The
thought would occur to him, ‘These people are entering a house, leaving it, walking along the
streets, and sitting down in the central square [where four roads meet]’ (D 2.96/1:83)
Here the usage of “entering” (pavisanti), “leaving” (nikkhamanti) and “wandering” (sa–caranti) refers
respectively to one being reborn, dying and seeking a new birth. The “house” represents the body or form
32 M 123.1-6/3:120. The Mahapadana S (D 14.1.17/2:12) similarly records that the past Buddha Vipassi, when still a Bodhisattva, descends into his mother’s womb “mindfully and clearly aware.”
33 D 28.5/3:103. Comy says that these 4 refer to (1) worldly humans; (2) the 80 great elders; (3) the two chief disciples of a Buddha and the pratyeka-bodhisattvas (ie pratyeka-buddhas in their last life); (4) to the all-knowing Buddhas (DA 4:176).
34 Tathagata Acchariya S 1 (A 4.127/2:130 f); Bhumi,cala S (A 8.70.15-17/4:313), adds the Buddha fully
knowing relinquishing of his life-formation (decision to pass away) as a fourth cause of earth tremor (A 8.70.18).

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of rebirth, and “sitting down (nisinna) in the central square [where four roads meet]” refers to the consciousness finding a new birth in the sense-world (the four roads representing the four elements, earth,
water, fire, wind). Here, the “sitting down” of the simile refers to the “discernment35 coming to be established in a new personality, after wandering in search of ‘it’.” (Harvey 1995:103) (8c) Another simile for the knowledge of the rebirth of beings, given in the Maha Assapura Sutta (M 39.19/1:279) compares it to the knowledge of a man standing between two houses, who would “see people entering the houses and leaving it, and coming and going, and wandering about” (M 39.19/1:279).

“This simile,” concludes Harvey, “emphasizes the mid-stage of becoming [existence] as one of wandering
and wavering, indeed, one of coming and going.” (Harvey 1995:103).
(8d) A similar metaphor, this one dealing with meditation, found in the Kisuka Sutta (S 35.204), provides the glosses for each of these terms:

Suppose, monk, a king had a frontier city with strong ramparts, walls, arches, and with six gates. The gate-keeper posted there would be wise, competent, and intelligent; one who keeps out strangers and admits acquaintances. A swift pair of messengers would come from the east …the west…the north…the south and ask the gate-keeper, “Where, good man, is the lord of this city?” He would reply, “He is sitting in the central square of the city [where the four roads meet]. Then the swift messenger would deliver their message of things as they are to the lord of the city and leave by the route by which they came. I have made up this simile, monk, to show you the meaning, that is to say: “The city” is a designation for this body consisting of the four elements, originating from mother and father, built up of rice and gruel, subject to impermanence, to being worn and rubbed away, to breaking apart and dissolution. “The six gates” are a designation for the six internal sense-bases. “The gate-keeper” is a designation for mindfulness. [195] “The swift messengers” are a designation for calmness and insight. “The lord of the city” is a designation for consciousness. “The central square [where four roads meet]” (sighaaka) is a designation for the four great elements—the earth element, the water element, the fire element, the wind element.’ “A message of things as they are” is a designation for nirvana. The route by which they had arrived is a designation for the Noble Eightfold Path…. (S 35.204/4:194 f)

(8e) Summary. Harvey summarizes the various similes for the intermediate state as follows:

“inclination”: leaving the body with a desire for further rebirth, like a man leaving a house, or a bit flying off a hot, beaten piece of iron; “coming and going”: wandering back and forth seeking a rebirth, like a man wandering on a road or between houses, or a hot iron bit that flies up in the sky; “falling away and arising”: falling from one’s previous state, one’s previous identity, into a new rebirth, like a man settling down in a square or entering a house; or a hot iron bit falling and cutting into the earth.

As shown in the Kutuhala,sala Sutta (S 44.9/4:398-400) [3.13-15], the whole intermediate state is like a leaping flame driven and fuelled by the wind, representing craving. “That is, craving provides the impetus
and energy to seek another rebirth and the intermediary existence is flavoured by such craving.” (Harvey
1995:103).

9. Miscellaneous
(9a) Length of the intermediate state. The early suttas see the intermediate state as a state of existence
that is fuelled by craving for rebirth, that one enters when one’s consciousness (the main process of
the life-principle) leaves the body.
35 “Discernment,” Peter Harvey’s term for “consciousness” (viññaa).

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In a dream-like existence, it [the intermediate being] wanders about seeking a new life, kept going by craving and accompanied by will and aspiration. On finding a new life, it falls into the womb (in the case of rebirths involving this), and sets off the production of a new mind-and body, which had been craved for. This all takes place, of course, within the parameters set by karma, the “field” in which the “seed” of discernment [consciousness] grows (§6.16).
(Harvey 1995 §6.31)
The Katha,vatthu Commentary (by Buddhaghosa) states that the intermediate state lasts a week or more
(KvuA 105). Vasubandhu (fl 4th cent), the early Mahayana master, teaches that it may take as long as
needed to unite the conditions for a new birth (Abhk:P §14da/p393). Other sources say: a very short time
(Vaibhasikas), seven days (Vasumitra), or seven weeks, but not longer. (Abhk 2:48 f; Abhk:P p394)
(9b) The bright light. People with near-death experiences (NDE) or out-of-body experiences (OBE)
often report seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel. Harvey argues (1995 ch 10) that this refers to the
consciousness found in deep sleep and at the moment of death is seen (in the Theravada) as “shining
radiantly” (pabhassara, A 1:8-10, 10 f).

It also makes sense of the reference in the Bardo Thötröl (“Tibetan Book of the Dead”) to people confronting a pure white light in the intermediary existence: in the first of the three stages of this, the mind is said to be in an unconscious and luminous state which is somehow equated with Amitabha, “Infinite Radiance,” Buddha (Fremantle & Trungpa, 1978:37). Such ideas also seem to connect with the idea, in other Mahayana Buddhist texts, that this Buddha will come to meet his devotees at death. (Harvey 1995:104)

(9c) Sleeping & dying. The intermediate state is not a fully conscious state. The early suttas, such as
the Payasi Sutta (D 23.16/2:333 f), talk of the life-principle as leaving a person either on dreaming or in
death. The materialist prince Payasi thinks that he has disproved rebirth when he puts a criminal in a
sealed jar and lets him die and saw no life-principle leaving the jar when it is opened. The venerable
Kumara Kassapa36 explains to Payasi how his gruesome experiment does not disprove rebirth, as, for
example, when the prince dreams, his attendants do not see his life-principle “entering or leaving” him; as
such, the life principle is not denied, but accepted, as an invisible phenomenon (Harvey 1995 §6.7).
Amongst other early references to sleeping and dying in similar terms are:
(1) The Payasi Sutta (D 23/15/2:333 f) uses the expression “gone to one’s day-bed” (diva,seyya)”
for taking a siesta, while the Metta Sutta (Sn 29) closes with the remark that one with moral
virtue, right view, and freedom from sense-pleasures will go no more to “a womb-bed” (gabbha,-
seyya), in the sense of “he would not be reborn.”
(2) The Vinaya uses okkamati both in the sense of “descent” of consciousness into the womb at
conception (Harvey 1995 §6.9) and also of “falling” into sleep (V 1:15).
  
36 Harvey errs here saying it is Maha Kassapa.

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